While some people take time off during the holidays, local prep basketball teams went to work on the court to get ready for their upcoming grueling region schedules.
After spending most of the last week in Florida at the Tampa Bay Christmas Invitational, the Rome High girls are eyeing another long road trip as they try to continue their hot streak through Region 7-5A.
The Lady Wolves are 5-0 in region play and face a nine-game road stint of league foes beginning Friday against Villa Rica.
Rome coach Jason Harris isn’t worried about the stretch, and instead feels it offers his team valuable experience in getting ready for the playoffs.
“You can’t win a state championship at home,” Harris said. “You’ve got to be able to win on the road, so we’re just looking at this as a way to prepare us for winning in hostile environments. We’re just going to take it one game at a time and enjoy the travel a little bit. We don’t have to worry about the distractions of being at home. We get to pack up and hopefully go take care of business.”
The Lady Wolves have faced some tough competition this year and have come out on top in most of their contests. At 12-2 on the season, Rome’s only two losses have been in tournament championship games — a loss to Darlington in the Seven Hills Rotary/Rome News-Tribune Christmas Tournament and a loss to Bullitt East (Ky.) in the Florida tournament.
“The two Christmas tournaments allowed us to get some exposure to things we need to work on,” Harris said. “Playing against some talent we don’t usually see gave us a really good look at where we are.”
Following Friday’s game, the Lady Wolves will then head to Hiram on Saturday. Rome is at the top of the standings with 6-0 Kell.
“We’re playing right on par where we should be,” Harris said. “You never want to peak too fast. The region is a dogfight this year. We’ve got one of the toughest regions in the state, probably. The teams have plenty of scorers and, defensively, they’re athletic enough that you can be down by 20 in the blink of an eye. We’ve got to stay sharp and stay ready.”
One of the only teams to beat Rome this year, the Darlington girls are also on a tear through their season. Also 12-2 on the year, Darlington’s only two losses have come at the hands of Class 3A Sonoraville. The Lady Tigers are undefeated in Region 6-A play at 3-0 and welcome Mt. Zion-Carroll to the Huffman Center on Saturday.
On the boys’ side of the action, three Region 7-AA schools are trying to keep their momentum going heading into the thick of region play.
Coosa, Model and Pepperell, which took first, second and third in the Christmas Tournament, respectively, also competed in the third annual Big Blue Classic at Model over the break.
The Dragons have kicked into high gear since starting the season 0-5, and now face a three-game road trip of region foes beginning with Gordon Central on Friday.
Since going 0-5, the Dragons have won five of their last seven, and with only a few games separating fifth-place Pepperell from first-place Chattooga, the region could be up for anyone.
“When we started out I gave them the message that eventually things are going to turn around,” Pepperell coach Zach Mendence said. “I knew with the group we had it would turn around. They don’t worry about the losses.”
Pepperell is 3-3 in region play, while Model is in second at 4-1 and Coosa is fourth at 3-2.
Since winning the Christmas Tournament, the Eagles lost three straight in the Big Blue Classic, and will hit the road Friday to face region foe Dade County.
Model, who’s only region loss was to second-place Rockmart, bounced back from its loss to Coosa in the Christmas Tournament final to top Darlington in the Big Blue Classic. The Blue Devils will host Chattooga on Friday in a key region matchup in Shannon.